Born and raised in the Chicago area, illustrator and painter Doug Klauba has a variety of published credits, including work as a cover artist for Moonstone Books. His talents have been featured in The Phantom, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Jack Hagee: PI, Zorro, The Spider, Doc Savage, Moonstone Monsters: Ghosts, General Jack Cosmo, and Project: Superpowers.
Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?
I have always read comics, I have always wanted to do comics but after attending art school my interests changed into pursuing commercial illustration. I continued to be a comic collector and reader while establishing myself as an illustrator.
Then, I was at a local comic book convention about 10 years ago and ran into some creators that I have known for years. Respected creators like Jill Thompson and Gary Gianni asked why I haven’t worked with any comic book publisher. I always assumed that I eventually would, but I didn’t have a good enough answer — to myself — at that moment. So, I decided to start developing my portfolio more towards what I love: super heroes, pulp art, costumed heroes and golden age super heroes. I only had a handful of genre pieces in my book, some had already been accepted into the Spectrum art annuals, but I was determined to get started with presenting my work at the next convention.
I remember telling a friend of mine that I was going to start showing my illustration work around to publishers and seek out some comic cover projects. His response was, “good luck” and that if I was really interested in doing comic book covers, I’d have to re-do my entire portfolio with just comic book characters! I thought to myself, “What? I can’t wait that long!” I forged ahead anyway, hoping for the best and determined. A few weeks later I called that same friend back with some real news. I had just received two cover assignments from local publisher, Moonstone Books. I was now working in comics!
Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?
There are a couple of illustrators who have influenced the way I approach a project, use techniques and mediums as well as helped me along my career path. I had an incredible opportunity to study with a few of my illustration heroes back at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Drew Struzan, Kazuhiko Sano and Thomas Blackshear. Their work speaks for themselves and their generosity in their classroom remains with me today. Thomas and I have been great friends ever since and remain close friends today.
Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?
Again, it’s a couple of great illustrators that I can also call great friends: Gary Gianni and Alex Ross. Gary was one of the first comic creators that gave me the confidence to pursue my interest in doing comic books. His work is always inspiring from his pen and ink illustrations to his gorgeous oil paintings. He’s a modern day example of Hal Foster, Krenkel and Frazetta!
And Alex has been an incredibly generous supporter in what I have done and what I can do in comics. I have since worked with him on Dynamite’s Project: Superpowers on sequential pages- with more to come. Alex has established the benchmark for excellence in comics in everything from storytelling to painted covers. He’s one of the top creators of the current generation of comic book creators who has also elevated the comic book medium into the mainstream.
Gary and Alex haven’t really changed my work. But if you think about it, they inspire me with the work they do. And that goes into the work I do.
Sleep! And exercise, ride my bike, watch films, listen to music, hang out with friends, sit with a coffee and a sketchbook, take walks with my family, read, go to museums, look through art books, all kinds of things. Someone once told me: “If you want to be creative, you have to experience life”.
Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.
Morning coffee in front of the computer, reading emails and answering a few. If I’m currently working on a painting, I’ll quickly jump back into it, once I’ve finished up any important business that needed to be addressed via email or phone. If I’m just starting a project, I’ll sit with a sketchbook and drag the pencil around a bit. Take notes, gather references.
I’ll most likely eat lunch in front of the computer or at my board and break around 2:30 or 3:00 and spend a little bit of quality time with my family, unless I’m under a pressing deadline. I’m back to work until dinner, and then I’ll continue to work until about 8 pm and help get the kids to bed. Once the house is quiet for the evening, I’ll work until midnight or well into the early morning. This is Monday through Friday. I usually work Saturday mornings, taking the afternoon or evening off, depending on deadlines, and Sunday is my day of rest and strictly my family time.
Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?
I draw in any sketchbook that is on my table or desk with a nice soft pencil and/or Micron ink pen. I prepare Crescent illustration boards with gesso and paint with Acrylic paints and an Iwata HP-C airbrush over my drawings that were blocked in with color pencils and brushes.
Everything from working with the art director, the concept, my presentation drawing and the process of painting. Personally, I have recently realized that I don’t really appreciate the finished painting until much later on. After it’s scanned, sent to the publisher, printed and/or posted online. I find that when I work on so many projects — a few at the same time — I’m concentrating on the deadline. It’s later on when I’m more at ease that I can sit back and take a look at what was done. And I have a couple of friends that I like to call upon that I like to sit around with for critiques and discussion.
Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?
There really are so many I could never pinpoint one project. I’ve had so many blessed experiences. I’ve had a few paintings of mine appear as set decoration in films, I’ve had movie stars approach me about my work, I’ve sat with some of my favorite musicians with my posters for their show, I’ve had lunch at the Lucas Ranch, my illustrations have been used on packaging for videos, CD’s and video games, collector plates, advertising campaigns and posters. I’ve illustrated children’s books, my originals have exhibited at the Society of Illustrators in New York and Los Angeles.
I have worked with incredibly gracious and talented people. I’ve always loved what I do and the most rewarding part of all of this has been the fact that I can make a good living do it and provide for my family. All of this because I am an artist and have a God-given talent.
Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?
When I was a young artist showing my ink drawings at the Chicago Comic Con, Howard Chaykin simply said, “Go to art school”. Although it hurt at the time, it’s basic and to the point and very true. As much as an artist enjoys hearing how brilliant they are, it’s the sincere and educated critiques that help you the most. I tell any new artist to go directly to the artists that inspire them and ask for an honest and sometimes brutally honest critique. It will move you along faster to where you want to go with your work.
Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” As an artist I am always putting my personal beliefs and goals into each and every piece of art that I do. There is no separating that fact. It is very important to me that the client and my audience enjoys what I do, but if I try and remove who I am from the work there is no integrity and no reward.
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